SC order on electoral bonds disclosure does not cover full details from March 2018

The SC has directed full disclosure of electoral bonds purchased after April 2019, but info about a chunk of bonds bought and encashed during the first year of the scheme will continue to remain hidden from public eye

March 18, 2024 09:31 pm | Updated March 19, 2024 11:54 am IST - NEW DELHI:

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on March 18 directed full disclosure of electoral bonds purchased after April 2019, but information about a chunk of poll bonds bought and encashed during the first year of the anonymous political funding scheme will continue to remain hidden from the public eye.

This would mean that full information on who bought how many electoral bonds to donate to which political party between March 1, 2018 and April 11, 2019 would continue to remain under wraps despite the fact that the Supreme Court had held the entire electoral bonds scheme, from start to finish, plainly unconstitutional in its judgment on February 15, 2024.

On March 18, the court dismissed a plea by an NGO, Citizens Rights Trust, represented by senior advocate Vijay Hansaria and advocate Sneha Kalita, to direct complete disclosure of electoral bonds’ details from March 1, 2018. The court said the plea was not “maintainable” even as the NGO claimed that information on nearly 10,000 bonds worth over ₹4000 crore, bought since March 2018, was not publicly available.

‘Substantive modification’

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud explained to the NGO that the February 15 judgment had explicitly sought publication of electoral bonds’ details only from April 12, 2019. Allowing the NGO’s application now would lead to a “substantive modification” of the February judgment.

Though the judgment had explicitly directed disclosure on electoral bonds purchased only from April 12, 2019 till February 15, 2024, a subsequent order of the court in the same case on March 11, 2024 had specifically instructed the Election Commission of India to “publish the details of the information which was supplied to this court in pursuance of the interim orders [April 12, 2019 and November 2, 2023] on its official website”.

The April 12, 2019 order of the apex court had required political parties which had received donations through electoral bonds to submit to the ECI the “detailed particulars” of the donors as against the each bond and the “full particulars” of the bank account to which the amount was credited and the date of each such credit. On November 2 last year, the court had directed the EC to update this data till September 30, 2023 and hand it over to the court.

So, the March 11 order had already extended the ambit of the judgment to the period prior to April 12, 2019. Besides, orders following a judgment should be read in consonance with it.

Hence, the question remains why the Supreme Court has now limited complete disclosure to electoral bonds post April 2019, and not to those bought and encashed from March 1, 2018.

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